Through Ray’s eyes.

October 13, 2011 § 11 Comments

I visit Bluebird, our 10 acres of rural land in Wakulla County, Florida, about twice a week, and always with a purpose.

Today I’ll plant snow peas.

Dig up a patch for the Vidalia onions.

Thin the lettuce.

Pick blueberries.

Even though no one will ask, I feel the need to justify getting up from this chair where I work all day writing stories, or arranging my next school author visit, or answering email from young readers.

My husband, Ray, goes out to our land every single day.

He sometimes splits firewood or waters the garden, but he doesn’t feel the need to explain.

He goes because he loves the place.

He goes just to be there.

He has taken the invitation of retirement seriously.

His time is now his own.

Camera hanging on one shoulder he rambles, or sits in the treehouse we built for the purpose of quiet sitting.

He is using the time that is now all his to observe the natural world most of us hurry through unseeing.

At least while he’s at Bluebird he seems unbothered by the internal chatter of being human.

He is able to watch the world at the speed of a spider or bee–even a patch of lichen.

When I met Ray he was a zoo photographer.

To get a photo of the nicitating membrane in a bird’s eye, or the courtship of cranes, or the threat display of a baboon took patient hours of crouched watching, and the ability to become invisible to the animal he was photographing.

Ray has worked a half dozen professions since then, but now that the choice is his he’s returned to patient invisibility, camera in hand.

Day after day he is creating a photographic record of the life that abounds on our ten sandy acres. Hundreds and hundreds of shots are slowing his computer to a balky crawl, but he’ll keep right on downloading images until his hard drive melts. Before it does, here are a few of them.

When we bought the property it was parklike, manicured.

We have allowed to take its own course growing weedy and chaotic.

Ray mows a few paths so we can walk around, but otherwise natural succession is creating a new landscape.

To the human eye it may not be as beautiful, but to any other eye it is well on its way to being perfect.

Before learning that random acts of nature could be counted on to bring in new plants we disked a three acre meadow and spread wildflower seeds much to the delight of the harvester ants that abound there.

These ants build subterranean colonies that spiral deep and are shaped like the double-helix of DNA.

The ants come to life as the sun warms the ground, wandering around as if confused—but they must get more efficient as the day goes on.

They gathered nearly all the seeds we had spread and enjoyed a fat winter. Only two flowers bloomed as the result of our efforts.

Aside from the vegetable garden, that was our last concerted effort at bossing the land around.

Without our help fleabane and liatris flowers now dot the meadow, along with an incredible variety of flowers my botanist friend, Karen, lumps under the single heading of GDYC (God Damn Yellow Composites)

Long leaf pines have sprouted there too. They remain in what is called “the grass stage” for several years, nothing but a stiff tuft of needles showing above ground as the pine develops a hardy root system.

Then, as if overnight, the “grass” bolts, to become a recognizable pine, a strategy designed to get the tree above the forest-fire zone as fast as possible.

I notice the new young trees standing sentinel in the meadow the way a tourist might.

Ray has watched them grow and photographed them day after day.

Ray’s reliable companion at Bluebird is not me, but our Australian Cattle Dog, Moo.

Moo rides out to our land with the same agenda as Ray–to catch up on what has gone on in the hours since the last visit.

Nose to the ground, she knows what creatures crossed our land during the night. Careless about boundaries she follows her nose off our land and through the broken fence onto the Corbett’s property where she runs the scent down or loses it–we never know. After a while the tink of her tags can be heard as she wanders back.

Moo and Ray return to me as I sit at this computer.

Moo curls up on the sofa cushion that is her bed and Ray tells me what is going on at the Bird.

He watched a spider cut a leaf out of her web. It tumbled down the web re-attaching itself again and again. Each time she patiently repeated the proceess, finally sitting proudly (even Ray can be a little anthropomorphic) in the center of the leaf-free web.

The rain has brought out a new crop of mushrooms.

He found the scratches of foraging turkeys scarring the path by the tree house.

The gall wasp larvae are dropping from the oak galls.

It looks like it’s going to be a good acorn year.

Ray and Moo are at Bluebird now–and I am writing about Ray and Moo at Bluebird.

Each of us knows this place in our own way.

Ray through quiet observation.

Moo by following her nose.

And me by the translating of our ten acres into words.

I’ll be out there tomorrow in the garden transplanting kale seedlings. I aspire to one day be as observant as Moo and Ray.

Maybe when I retire.

Note: Click on any photo to enlarge it.

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§ 11 Responses to Through Ray’s eyes.

  • craig reeder says:

    wow! what great photos!!! kudos to ray, the artist!


  • Very nice. It’s good to learn a little about Ray. My Carol loves pictures and drawing also. I’ve always liked photographs. I once had a subscription to Playboy magazine. It was delivered in a brown paper bag type wrapper back in those days. Of course, I once subscribed to National Geographic also. (They also had pictures of naked women in them.) But that isn’t why I bought them. I liked the ant eaters and ant hills. I also liked the short stories and the articles in Playboy – Yes, I know, you’ve heard that before. Great little story. Thanks for sending it by. I’m going to run it over to
    Carol. She reaaly enjoys your work. By the way the author’s day in Apalach was fun. Lots of writers and lectures about writing. Sold a few books but still won’t be off on a cruise ship to Europe just yet.


  • ammaponders says:

    What a beautiful description of a happy man. So many men flounder and can’t figure out what to do with themselves in retirement.
    And such beautiful pictures, too.
    Thank you for this loving portrait of your husband and your land.


  • What a lovely stroll! I’ve enjoyed your Bluebird!
    Now back to my laptop – sigh.

    But I did 18 this morning and the best bird watching in The Villages is on a golf course – Great Blue Herons and Little Blue Herons; Great White Egrets and Snowy Egrets; Mature white Ibis and immature brown/white Ibis; ducks, ducks and more ducks. And on Hole 11 – an anhingus battling a fish; on Hole 15 a beautiful hawk, soaring and watching.

    Thanks for the reminder!



  • Looks lovely!! (& great descriptions as well…)


  • Linda Goff says:

    Thank you Adrian for sharing your words. Thank you Ray for sharing your pictures. Thank you Moo for being such a good companion to patient photographer Ray and one of my favorite authors Adrian.


  • I’m not showing this to my wife – she wants to live nearer to nature so much. LA has odd spots of natural beauty but it is rare to see anything really allowed to grow naturally. A great book – Noah’s Garden – is all about fostering native plants and returning the land to its native state.


  • Sharon Hartman says:

    Mike feels just the same way about Red Oak Farm. I so hope he is able to join Ray in going to his sacred spot every day…not just on weekends!


  • Tgumster says:

    Ray revealed through Bluebird, Moo, and you: such a stunning portrait. Virtually, I was with you, word by word.


  • Your thoughts and Ray’s photos make for a lovely union. Thanks for the stroll.


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